Iceland’s glaciers are incredible feats of nature. It is absolutely fascinating to learn about these incredible natural structures, whether we have the opportunity to visit them in person or not! In this article I share with you 20 fascinating facts about Iceland’s glaciers. Ready to learn more? Keep reading…
Facts you Should Know about Iceland’s Glaciers
Iceland’s glaciers are super interesting to learn about, so lets get started…
1. Iceland is a Home of Ice and Fire
Iceland glaciers are one of the world’s rarest wonders, where ice and fire reside together over each other. Many glaciers in Iceland are situated over active volcanoes. For example, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier covers one of Iceland’s largest active volcanoes called Katla.
Moreover, Langjökull glacier, Iceland’s second largest glacier, also has some volcanic systems beneath it. The most popular volcanic system is Hveravellir, located at the east of the glacier. Furthermore, Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park, which has 30 outlet glaciers, is home to eight active volcanoes.
When one of these active volcanoes erupts, sudden glacial outburst floods occur. This is why tourists are forbidden to hike on the glaciers, which have a high chance of volcanic eruptions without a certified guide.
2. The Vatnajökull is Europe’s Largest Glacier
Vatnajökull glacier deserves to be the first visit on your list when you travel to Iceland. This place has become one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world because it is so unique.
The conditions for traveling here can become dangerous during extreme winters and at times of volcanic eruptions. This is why a certified glacier guide and the right equipment are necessary if you want to hike on its different parts.
3. Öræfajökull Volcano is a Hiker’s Paradise
If you’re looking for a beautiful hiking place, go to the southernmost part of the biggest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, where Öræfajökull volcano is located. For many, this is their favourite hiking spot as the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjúkur, is located here.
The landscape in the area is striking as you would see black sands, big mountains, rivers and lagoons, along with some breathtaking views.
4. There is Scarce Wildlife on Icelandic Glaciers
You won’t find a lot of wildlife creatures around Icelandic glaciers. Mostly the wildlife that has been witnessed here is around the Vatnajökull Glacier. Seals are prevalent, and seagulls and some other birds are famous too.
The largest mammal you’ll see around the Vatnajökull Glacier are reindeer. Apart from that, you’ll hardly see wild animals roaming Iceland’s glaciers.
5. Svínafellsjökull is the Bluest Glacier in Iceland
Svínafellsjökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, is very old and is known for its blue colour. This ancient glacier is called the ‘pig mountain glacier’ and is one of the bluest glaciers in Iceland. It has a dreamy landscape with deep, impressive cracks and incredible ice formations.
Moreover, this spot is also a popular location for hikers as dreamy scenery and stable surface make it easy to hike around. This area is famous for being the shooting site of many famous movies.
6. There are Extreme Weather Patterns
If you’re planning to visit Iceland’s glaciers, then be ready to face all weather patterns. You’ll find snowfalls, colder temperatures, and plenty of cloud cover here, with rain pouring down at you without warning. So, if you’re a hiker, you should expect changing conditions and bring rain attire along with some extra clothes.
7. The Exact Number of Large Glaciers is Unknown
There is always confusion about exactly how many large glaciers are located in Iceland. It’s almost impossible to know their specific number. However, many studies suggest that there are 13 large glaciers in Iceland, with hundreds of small glaciers spread all over Iceland.
There are approximately 269 glaciers intotal in Iceland; with ice caps, outlet glaciers, mountain glaciers, and piedmont being some of the most known types of glaciers here.
8. The Ice Caves are Spectacular
If you want to see the beautiful ice caves, you must travel to the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. It’s home to some stunning blue crystal ice caves. Moreover, the Breiðamerkurjökull is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. You can explore these sites through snowmobiles and jeep tours. However, you are only allowed to access this place in winter.
9. Iceland Has a Falling Glacier
Falljökull glacier is called the “Falling Glacier” because its ice drops down the mountains and smashes directly onto the ocean. One of the reasons that ice drops from this glacier is due to the rising temperature of the globe. As the Earth is getting warmer, the ice of glaciers is melting very fast. Therefore, the ice drops directly onto the ocean. It is also the reason that sea levels are increasing around Iceland rapidly.
Nevertheless, its landscape is beautiful and dramatic as the ice formation here is ever-changing. You’ll find the Fjallsarlon lagoon on its edge, a well-known glacier lake in Iceland. This glacier is among the most easily accessible glaciers. This is why Falljökull is a favorite destination for many hikers.
10. Iceland Has a “Long Glacier”
Langjökull Glacier is the second-largest glacier in Iceland. Located in the western part of the highlands of Iceland, Langjökull is called the “Long Glacier” as it covers an area of 395 square miles with a thickness of 580 meters.
The government has prohibited travellers from traveling to Langjökull during extreme weather conditions. So, this glacier is not as famous for tourists as the Vatnajökull glacier is. Nevertheless, you can find lava traces and beautiful ice caves when the glacier is open to travel.
11. The Largest Man Made Ice Cave Is Here
Langjökull Glacier, apart from being one of the largest glaciers in Iceland, is also home to the largest man-made ice cave in the world. This ice cave has been accessible to tourists since 2015. You’ll also find an ice chapel in this man-made cave which has been the talk of the town for many years.
Many natural caves have also been discovered in the last few years. Tourists can easily access them and visit these sites directly from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik.
12. It is Home to Mesmerising Waterfalls
Iceland’s glaciers are home to some well-known waterfalls. This includes the Gullfoss waterfall in the Langjökull glacier and Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfall in the Eyjafjallajökull glacier.
You can also witness the Dettifoss Waterfall, which is the second most powerful waterfall in Europe. All these mesmerizing waterfalls offer a great experience for travellers.
13. Mýrdalsjökull Covers Largest Active Volcano
The small but scenic Mýrdalsjökull is found in Iceland. It is known as the ‘mire valley’ and covers Iceland’s largest active volcano called Katla.
This glacier has highly picturesque views; you can see some stunning ice formations and shining blue ice caves here. The area is very close to Reykjavik, so many tours operate from Reykjavik to explore this majestic glacier.
Mýrdalsjökull is one of those Iceland’s glaciers that are at the mercy of climate change. Continuous rainfalls and constant shrinking in size due to global warming make this glacier one of the most highly affected Iceland’s glaciers by climate change.
To save this glacier from the effects of climate change, the government is planning to grow forests around it. The forest will absorb the warm air from the environment around them. This will help reduce the effects of climate change.
14. They produce ‘energy’?
Snæfellsjökull, also known as the ‘snowfall glacier’, is a unique place. Many spiritual-minded people believe that this glacier is one of the main energy centres of the Earth.
Situated in West Iceland, Snæfellsjökull is home to black sand, panoramic sea cliffs, fishing spots, black sand beaches and exhilarating volcanic sceneries.
The snowfall glacier also covers a large cone-shaped volcano that can be witnessed even from Reykjavík. Tourists are allowed to reach the summit of this glacier. However, reaching the summit from the edge is time-consuming as this glacier is very long.
15. Eyjafjallajökull disrupted the world
Eyjafjallajökull is also known as the “island mountain glacier”. It is an ice cap in south Iceland, located west of the Myrdalsjokull glacier. Eyjafjallajökull became very famous in 2010 when the volcano under it erupted. This eruption halted air traffic for a few days and affected millions. You can still witness the paths of this eruption while traveling to this place.
16. You can see the midnight sun from the glacier
Drangajökull is located in northern Iceland. It is one of those beautiful places where you can watch the midnight Sun during the summer solstice. You can also witness the northern lights showing from its center at night.
It is the only glacier that is below the 1000-meter mark. It is 925 meters long glacier which has remained intact and rock solid for years with no major eruptions taking place. Tourists can reach its summit in 2 hours from its edge.
Drangajökull is one of the rarest places on Earth where tourists can observe the darkest winters with no sunlight at all to 24 hours of the Sun shining over it in high summer. This is the beauty of this glacier.
17. There is a Game of Thrones Location Glacier
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, visit the Svínafellsjökull glacier. This location is a renowned site of many famous series like Game of Thrones, Batman Begins, and Interstellar.
This is where the awesome battle between Jon Snow’s group and the army of the dead happened. The location is just about a 3-hour drive from Reykjavik. Therefore, you can easily travel to this location and see where this battle was filmed.
18. The Shrinking of Icelandic Glaciers is Real
Climate change is causing havoc on Iceland’s glaciers. All these glaciers are shrinking in size. And many scientists believe that these glaciers will be gone in the coming 200 years.
It also includes Vatnajökull, a Unesco World Heritage site that is shrinking by a length of nearly three football fields every year. Moreover, since 2000, Iceland has lost 750 square kilometres of the glacier. Ironically, this has been the leading reason for people traveling here in high numbers, as they want to experience these glaciers before they’re gone.
Glaciologists believe that this reduction in the size of Iceland’s glaciers will continue to happen. And it will be the primary cause of many floods and droughts in the coming years around the world. To stop this from happening, the governments are taking drastic measures in reducing carbon emissions by 55% till the end of 2030.
19. Plants are Finding Life in Iceland
As the glaciers shrink due to increasing temperature, it has given plants a chance to sustain life. Plants can not survive under icy conditions, but with the temperature rise, scientists believe that plants will start to grow in Iceland in the coming year.
This is because when the glacier melts, it gives a chance for ice-buried land to get exposed to the sun. This allows photosynthesis, allowing the plants to make food and sustain life.
20. There is Microbial Diversity on Icelandic Glaciers
Scientists have also found that Iceland’s glaciers are host to numerous endemic communities of microorganisms that have adapted to cold, dark and nutrient-poor waters. However, research is still going on how they have survived under such cold conditions.
Scientists have predicted that many of these microorganisms will be found on Iceland’s glaciers with time. This is because the rising temperature will cause Iceland to warm, allowing tiny creatures to survive in the coming years.
Final Words on Iceland’s Glaciers
Iceland’s glaciers, home to ice and fire, have become a daring adventure trip for many tourists over the past few years. From having the largest glacier in Europe to being the home of thundering waterfalls and large active volcanoes, there are many unique facts about Iceland’s glaciers. I’ve rounded up all these fascinating facts in this article. Remember to read all of them if you’re planning to travel here.
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